15 Aug 2010

Mini Reviews 15/08/2010

While we may not always have the time to review all the comics we get every week, we do try and provide a snapshot of the latest releases, mixing the good with the not so good.

This week also sees the next instalment of Matt C's Buscema Avengers Project.

Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Art: Fernando Pasarin & Cam Smith
DC $3.99

Stewart R: I was quite disappointed to see Peter J. Tomasi leave the Green Lantern Corps title as he’d sucked me into the world of the Lanterns and the desperate situation the Blackest Night had posed rather deeply. Luckily he hasn’t strayed far and this new series keeps the same terrific feel that was to be found in his run on GLC. Guy Gardner was put through the wringer during that dark event and has come out of the other side wrapped up in a troubled pact involving the Red Lantern leader Atrocitus. Tomasi does an excellent job of covering all of the bases in this first issue, from Guy’s particular brand of law-enforcement to his and Ganthet’s secretive actions, and from Atrocitus’ nefarious scheming to a mysterious individual who is sure to add an extra twist further down the line. And speaking of lines, Pasarin’s pencils are superb with the initial action-packed scene really highlighting the level of detail this artist can deliver. I’d dismissed this title when seeing it turn up in Previews a few months ago; I couldn’t have been more wrong to do so. Sterling stuff! 9/10

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Art: Dale Eaglesham
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: Bar the somewhat dodgy cover where Carlos Pacheco gives Rogers a baby face (!) this a quality read once again. Brubaker mixes up the former Captain America’s wartime past with some full-on espionage activity. He’s not breaking any new ground here but the writer displays such confidence handling this character that the relatively formulaic nature of the plot is not even an issue. I’d go as far to say the he writes Rogers better than anyone has since maybe Mark Gruenwald back in the ’80s and he has a deeper understanding of what the man represents than anyone else working at Marvel today. He may have handed over the Captain America title to Bucky, but it’s Rogers that fits him like a glove. Eaglesham gives Steve the requisite clean cut, squared-jawed 'man’s man' look and handles the action well. If you enjoyed those early issues of Brubaker’s Captain America where it had the whole spy vibe going on then you’ll love this. 8/10

Writers: Fabio Moon & Gabriel Ba
Art: Fabio Moon & Gabriel Ba
DC/Vertigo $2.99

Stewart R: Well, this puts me in something of a predicament review-wise. Up to this point the series has been a terrific example of single, individual chapters that carried a similar theme and gave the series its emotional backbone. This penultimate issue appears to focus on Bras’ dreams about his life, his past and his future, but I have to say after two read-throughs I’m still not certain what is going on and what these writers are trying to say. There does seem to be a philosophical message about appreciating life as a whole, from the beginning until the very end, and there’s a part of me that wonders if this chapter is actually set at a point close to Bras’ actual death. There’s an interesting change in artist midway through with Ba picking up the pencilling duties to add an extra level of mystery/confusion and ... you know what, I’ve just flicked through again and I think I get it now! Of course, divulging my thoughts could spoil your read so I will refrain from doing so. That’s been the great thing with this series; we readers have been constantly guessing what the twist or hook is all the way through and even now, on the cusp of enlightenment, we still don’t know. 8/10

Matt C: The penultimate issue of this excellent miniseries goes off on an unexpected tangent, taking us into Bras’ dreamscape and even planting the suggestion that Bras isn’t the character we’ve previously familiarized ourselves with. It’s difficult to know how to take this particular instalment because, while the previous eight issues had a sort of self-contained quality to them, this one requires prior knowledge of the story that's come before. It’s still a fantastic read but I think everything now hangs on how Ba and Moon wrap this tale up. It’s unarguably been an excellent series but depending on how satisfying it is, the denouement will decide whether this stands a chance of fitting the classification of ‘masterpiece’. 8/10

Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Art: Miguel Sepulveda
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: When Abnett and Lanning brought Galactus and his giant cosmic abstract pals to this fight in only the second issue I was wondering where the heck they could possibly be taking this concept with four further instalments to come. Well, in this issue they show just how precarious a position the Marvel Universe finds itself in and in doing so they really have me wondering just how this event could end and what it could mean for the giant cast of characters in play. DnA have made this world their own and know who they need to speak up and when to get the best drama and action out of a story such as this. It’s clear that they favour Nova and Star-Lord as the main protagonists, each offering a different type of heroic leadership as they do, but the supporting cast are so vibrant, developed and damn interesting that this is simply the best ensemble comic out there today. Sepulveda is once again responsible for a ‘YES’ moment from this reviewer with his double-page spread of heroic awesomeness, and that surprising ending should make for some further fun next time out. 9/10

Writer: Mike Carey
Art: Peter Gross
DC/Vertigo $2.99

Matt C: There’ve been stories of fictional characters crossing over into the ‘real’ world in comics before but rarely have they been presented with such confidence and ingenuity as in Carey and Gross’ The Unwritten. At its heart it’s a a fairly profound meditation on the power of stories that uses a Harry Potter analogue for contemporary relevance. This issue answers some of the questions that have been lingering since the series began, but of course Carey leaves plenty of mysteries unexplained to ensure we come back for more. Gross employs some powerful visual ideas to show how the written word can leap off the page to be used as a weapon and gives us a grand representation of a more ‘mature’ Potteresque world where the violent methods utilized by the bad guys are as brutal as they are ugly. A series that goes from strength to strength and one that is arguably Carey’s finest comics work to date. 8/10

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: David Lafuente
Marvel $3.99

Tom P: Peter Parker has been missing since issue #11 after being overpowered by a shapeshifter who was curious to find out why this apparently normal teenager was so quick and strong. Before you know it, he's wreaked havoc on Pete's personal life and discovered his Spider-goodies! The opening page is terrific as the phoney Peter pulls Spider-Man's mask down, grinning, with the words "I am not Spider-Man", branding Peter an idiot for not exploiting his gifts as he swings face first into a skyscraper! Before long, as the cover suggests, the mutant growth hormone addict is up to no good. This is another great issue from the USM team and I'm completely in love with Lafuente's artwork. Pick up the first trade (the premier hardcover is very tasty) - you really should be reading this. 9/10

Writer: Andy Diggle & Antony Johnston
Art: Roberto de La Torre
Marvel $2.99

Tom P: So far the only Shadowland books I’ve purchased have been Shadowland itself along with Daredevil. Its been solid work so far from both titles but Daredevil is the better of the two so far and that’s mostly down to the appearance of Elektra, always one of my favourite women in Marvel comics. She's currently on a mission to save Matt from the darkness that’s been slowly corrupting him since he became leader on the Hand. The fact that she looks foxy always helps and De La Torre's artwork is fantastically dark and moody. Throw in an entertaining fight between a few ninja, Luke Cage and Iron Fist and you have a great comic book that sets up the events in Shadowland in style. 8/10

Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Art: Eddy Barrows & J.P. Mayer
DC $2.99

Matt C: The last issue showed a hell of a lot of promise but this month’s instalment has me wondering whether Straczynski is taking this title down a path I want to follow. I can deal with Kal-El walking across the States, observing the common man and reacquainting himself with his adopted home, and I’m obviously expecting him to help folk out along the way, but there have to be limits. Here he manages to pretty much reinvigorate a formerly flourishing industrial city (with some ‘outside’ assistance) and it makes it look way too easy. And it shouldn’t be that easy for him to ‘fix’ things because if you follow that through then hasn’t he got the potential to turn America into a Utopia? And then the world? So, there have to be limits, and there should be more of a struggle to his journey. I’m not at a stage where I’m ready to write this off because I can’t believe Straczynski would have the Man of Steel stroll across the States performing miracles left, right and centre without any real resistance. Let’s just say I’m not as optimistic as I was at the end of last issue. 6/10

Stewart R: Straczynski hit a high note with #701 but this issue doesn’t quite measure up in comparison as the story drifts into ‘repeat’ territory a little as Superman arrives in Detroit. The basketball scene is pure cliché and grates a little that none of the characters involved can see what has transpired. What comes next is an entertaining look at the subject of immigration and the affect that the death of industry can have on a community but in a story where Superman is walking across the States I’d like to maybe go one issue without the Man of Steel having his durability tested (or having to use powers at all if it came to it). That may of course happen further down the road and while this isn’t perfect it’s still good enough to keep me interested for further issues. I like Burrows’ and Mayer’s artwork but I do get the feeling that Mayer’s inks combined with too rich a palette from colourist Rod Reis sometimes leaves the linework a little overpowered. 6/10

Writer: Mark Millar
Art: Steve Dillon
Marvel 3.99

Tom P: After the bombastic concluding issue of Ultimate Avengers 2 finished off Leinil Yu's run with this black ops team we get to the third chapter and now it’s Steve Dillon's turn on the book. I’m not a big Dillon fan; his artwork is good but just not my thing. Millar keeps me onboard though, introducing some interesting new twists and turns. I’m not convinced by the new Daredevil yet and when you think how much plotting and character development there was in just one issue of The Ultimates not a lot actually seems to happen here. Vampires seem to be in vogue at Marvel at the moment, but I was quite surprised by the Ultimate Vampires' addition to their ranks. All said and done I'm still interested in this comic but it has a tendency to be either great of just average. 6/10

Writers: Craig Kyle & Chris Yost
Art: Gabrielle Dell’Otto
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: Why, oh why do these great writers have to leave X-Force behind when they’re clearly at the top of their game?? This is a terrific ‘explicit content’ read from Marvel as Wolverine attempts to pull Domino’s ‘fat’ - or should that be svelte figure? - out of the super-hot fire she’s managed to find herself in. The violence is on the gory side but works with these characters who excel at maiming and occasionally forcing death onto the odd individual here and there. The animal passion between Neena and Logan is not excessive and is very well handled by Dell’Otto who impresses immensely with his high level of detail and washed colours. The writers guarantee there are plenty of elements all heading for a glorious collision in the finale which I dare say is likely to be unmissable. 8/10

Writer: Roger Stern
Art: John Buscema & Tom Palmer
Marvel $0.75

Matt C: Skipping an issue for the first time in my Buscema Avengers Project as #280 – Jarvis in a hospital bed reminiscing about the past (kind of like a TV 'clip' show) – was put together by a guest creative team (Bob Harras, Bob Hall & Kyle Baker) and therefore doesn’t really fulfil the criteria. Issue #281 has the regular creative team back onboard, ready to crank up the action for a new story arc. After Hercules was beaten into a coma by the Masters of Evil it was only a matter of time before his family would get wind of it. And if you know your Marvel history (or, indeed, your classical Greek mythology) you’ll know that Herc’s kin are Olympian gods, and they’re not best please that the Avengers have let one of their own get trounced so soundly. Whereas the Asgardian gods always have a regular opportunity to hog some limelight in the Thor title, appearances of the Olympians are relatively few and far between, so it’s always good to see them do their thing, particularly when rendered with a nod to Kirby by Buscema and Palmer. The issue’s a hell of a lot of fun: not only does Doc Druid exclaim “Egad!” (a vastly underused word, methinks!) but She Hulk gets to say “Laugh this off, fat boy!” whilst punching out Dionysus! Far more entertaining than the recent Clash Of The Titans remake, that’s for sure. 8/10

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